You know the old sayings: "The cobbler's kids need new shoes." "The mechanic's car is in dire need of repair." And "the financial-management consultant is knee-deep in debt." There are probably a zillion other examples like these in which someone or some group is so busy tending to other people's problems that they don't make the time to take care of their own.
In recent months, many IT groups have found themselves in a similar position. In the past, they skipped the intense quality-improvement and productivity mandates that have driven factory floors, call centers, distribution centers, and other parts of the business. How efficient the IT operation ran took a backseat to how quickly and effectively it could solve a business unit's problem, or deliver functionality, or explore emerging technologies, or help reengineer a business process.
But those days are gone. Cost cutting, intense ROI demands, fear of outsourcing, global expansion, and other factors are driving a new level of automation and efficiency within the core IT department. This is causing some companies to move to more-centralized IT departments to allow for better decision making and better control over resources and budgets.
These departments are being asked to incorporate the constant improvement and process optimization in their own operations that they have helped bring to other business units in their companies. Constant improvement, process optimization, higher productivity, and more time for strategic projects are what's most important these days. There are some tools on the market that are helping IT pros make this happen (see Automating The IT Factory), but there's more work to do until full factory automation makes its way to the IT department.
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